Nightshade-free Ropa Vieja!? This classic Cuban comfort food has been created without any inflammatory tomatoes or peppers but is anything but light on flavor!
I’ve been dreaming of providing the AIP community with a true-to-Cuba version of Ropa Vieja. I’m so excited my experiment turned out favorably! Bonus: It’s made in the Instant Pot!
If you’re not familiar with Ropa Vieja, it is one of the most delicious recipes of Cuban cuisine. Traditionally it is made with flank steak, lots of bell peppers, paprika, tomatoes and sometimes green olives and capers. The steak is braised in the juices of all those tasty veggies and broth. My version is quite the departure in terms of ingredients but not in flavor!
How can I make Ropa Vieja without nightshades!?
This AIP-friendly version comes close to the real thing – it’s pretty amazing! You’ll need two elimination phase introductions for this recipe: cumin and black pepper. The black pepper adds some spiciness without the nightshades & the cumin is a MUST! I’m sure it’ll still be tasty if you leave those things out, but I wouldn’t call it Ropa Vieja – maybe just tasty shredded beef and olives.
Instead of flank steak, I use a more affordable cut of beef! Stew beef – I can find grass-fed stew beef for only 3.99/lb at my grocery store Earth Fare. Flank steak isn’t always available and it’s usually upwards of $8/lb! I also use kalamata olives because I love the robust taste of kalamatas but you could use the traditional green olives here too.
Now instead of using tomato sauce and tomatoes, all of this tasty goodness comes from simmering down the leftover juices from the beef, onions, fish sauce, coconut aminos and apple juice. You will be shocked at what an incredibly rich, savory and thick tomato-like sauce you will achieve with your Instant Pot! All of these ingredients come together to mimic the sweet umami flavor of tomato-based recipes.
Lastly, I suggest serving this delicious Ropa Vieja over a baked white sweet potato or a bowl of cauliflower rice with avocado, extra lime juice and cilantro. This is such a slap-you-in-your-face flavorful dish, you really can’t go wrong!
Making this recipe in a slow cooker?
While I haven’t done that, here are my best suggestions! Perform the first ** steps cooking for 4 to 6 hours in your slow cooker. Remove the beef to a serving bowl and transfer the liquid, onions and bay leaf to a small saucepan on your stovetop. Simmer uncovered until condensed into a thick, rich sauce.
Looking for more Paleo-friendly Cuban dishes?
Try my Nightshade-Free Cuban Picadillo & Vaca Frita!
Nightshade-Free Ropa Vieja
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 2 lbs beef stew meat
- 1 bay leaf
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
- Turn “Saute” function on your Instant Pot on Medium heat. Heat avocado oil. Saute onion for 5 minutes then add chopped garlic.
- Cook for another 2 minutes before stirring in the sea salt, cumin, pepper and turmeric. Cook the onions downs for 2 more minutes until slightly reduced.
- Add the beef, coconut aminos, apple juice and fish sauce. Set “Meat/Stew” function on to automatically pressure cook for 35 minutes.
- When timer elapses, transfer the beef to a large bowl, leaving the onions and liquid in the Instant Pot. Turn the "Saute" function back on and add the bay leaf to the pot. Allow liquid to simmer and condense to a thick sauce for the next 15 to 20 minutes keeping a close eye on it. The sauce should be thick like tomato sauce and dark red.
- Meanwhile, shred the beef with two forks and stir in the lime juice. When the sauce is ready, discard the bay leaf and stir sauce into the shredded beef. Mix in sliced olives and serve.
You may use other cuts of beef here but you may need to adjust the cooking time. See blog post for slow cooker suggestions.